My creative process begins with: just thinking. I do a lot of thinking, a lot of pondering. I rarely watch films in airplanes; I just sort of sit there, looking at the ceiling. Day dreaming is the equivalent of doodling; it’s mental doodling.

Paris Review – CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Preface, George Saunders

When I was in my twenties I had this plan to go to El Salvador and write about the experience. I had no money, didn’t speak Spanish, but this was “my dream.” I stopped by one day to see a friend of mine but found only his father home. I’d never spoken to this man before, not really. He was a truck driver, a father of eight, always went around in a white T-shirt and a pair of Buddy Holly glasses. But this day, we talked. I told him about my El Salvador plan, expecting him to find it indulgent. But instead he said, “You know what? You have to do it.”

“Yes,” I said, with the force of revelation. “I do. I really do.”

“And you know why?” he said. “Because you know who you’re going to blame if you don’t?”

I did know.

“Myself,” I said with a knowing smile.

“Bullshit,” he said. “You’ll blame your wife and  kids.”

I often thought of this conversation when I was stealing time from Radian to write this book. If I didn’t, I told myself, I was going to become a bitter old-fart version of myself, blaming Paula and the girls.

So I stole like a mother. I wrote in the bathroom, I printed using the company printer, I turned away from my Kodak report to jot things down, I edited while waiting for an offsite groundwater remediation system to purge, I sometimes blew off a full afternoon when I was feeling ripe, although usually, when that happened, I’d take work home, just to be fair.

(Cf. Amy Poehler.)

It’s been a few years since I’ve read any Saunders, but I’m really excited about his new book.

Paris Review – CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Preface, George Saunders

Behavior is easier to change than expectations are. […] Telling your enthusiasm and daydreams to sit in a closet till [the situation] proves worthy of them? That involves the hard work of identifying, and admitting, why you so badly need the validation. Repairing the source of the need is the answer here.

Carolyn Hax. I edited this quote to make it more general. Relates to another favorite line of hers: Let the facts write your dreams. Other Hax quotes I love.

Interview with Joyce Carol Oates | Arch Literary Journal

Who knew Joyce Carol Oates was a runner? On how running and dreaming are alike:

I think that when we’re stationary, we have a somewhat thickened sense of the ego or the “I,” and we’re just sort of self-conscious and aware of ourselves. But when we’re in motion, or when we’re in a dream, the “I” entity starts to dissolve. Some people, including myself, and possibly you, are capable of having dreams in which your own personality is really almost dissolved. You know, way, way down in the depths of the ocean there are creatures that are transparent. They’re like jellyfish, a lot of very transparent creatures. And I was thinking it’s almost analogous to the human experience of sleep, where when you’re really, really deep into sleep, your own physical self is often not even there. It’s like you’re transparent. And, it may be a process that we just will never understand, descending somehow deep into the primitive brain – like the brain almost at the brain stem – and away from the consciousness. And, somehow running replicates that, I think. I would think that if you were running very fast, if you were in an instinctive situation where you were terrified – say you were being pursued, and your life was in danger – you would be flooded with adrenaline. I would think probably the “I” or ego was almost gone, that you’re just running like a physical entity, the way a soldier might just start [running], or a boxer, or someone like that. But when you’re writing, there’s … as I say, we have this more thickened or more solid sense of the self, because it’s usually in some stationary situation with social definitions.

Interview with Joyce Carol Oates | Arch Literary Journal